Is this rare Ram Air IV four-speed the finest of first-gen Firebirds?


Pontiac established itself as a performance brand in the early 1960s, kicked off the muscle car era with the 1964 GTO, and fed the pony car frenzy when it offered the Firebird’s “Trans Am performance and appearance package” starting in 1969. Fewer than 700 1969 Trans Ams were built, and this sterling WS4 example, one of just a handful known to exist with its original and desirable drivetrain, is set to cross the stage at Mecum’s Kissimmee sale this month.

The WS4 option code for the Trans Am included unique fender trim that mimicked heat extractors, a decklid wing, a front spoiler, a dual-scoop ram air hood, and Cameo Ivory paint highlighted with Tyrol Blue stripes and tail panel. Those cosmetic and aerodynamic upgrades were met with a limited-slip differential, a heavy-duty suspension with a 1-inch diameter sway bar, and front disc brakes, just to name a few of the standard performance bits.

'69 Pontiac Ram Air IV rear three-quarter

Pontiac buyers had several performance engine options to choose from in 1969, including several V-8s and a spicy version of the 250 overhead-cam inline-six, the latter good for 230 hp.

The Trans Am, however, brought the heat. It came standard with a 400-cubic-inch Ram Air III V-8 that produced 335 hp. The only engine option was an upgrade to the Ram Air IV V-8, with an identical displacement.

'69 Pontiac Ram Air IV engine

While the Ram Air III V-8 was nothing to sneeze at, the Ram Air IV V-8 took the power to the next level with improved intake ports matched to a four-barrel aluminum intake manifold. It used round exhaust ports like the Ram Air II heads, while the standard 335-hp engine employed the more common D-ports that crowded the exhaust routing a bit. The Ram Air III and IV used the same performance camshaft, but the Ram Air IV took better advantage of it thanks to an increase in rocker arm ratio—1.65:1 compared to 1.5:1—that netted higher valve lift. Pontiac claimed those improvements in airflow were good for 345 hp in the Trans Am and 370 hp in the GTO, but it seems that those numbers were sandbagged a bit.

Just fifty-five Trans Ams were produced with Ram Air IV power in 1969, forty-six of which were equipped with a four-speed manual, as is the case with this recently restored beauty that retains its original interior.

Low production numbers mean that it’s rare to have one come up for sale. Mecum has noted an estimated sale price of $375,000 – $450,000. That closely follows the current #2 (Excellent) to #1 (Concours) value for a Ram Air IV 1969 Trans Am, which saw a big increase in the summer of 2022.

We’ve noted some ho-hum results for muscle cars in the last few months, perhaps this rare and beautiful piece of Poncho power will wake bidders up at what has become one of the top locations for big muscle car sales. We’re not going to place too much import on just one Trans Am transaction, but it could be an interesting barometer for the muscle market going into 2023.

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    Nice but I prefer the 67-68 and 70 body style. Rarity is not the all encompassing attribute for me. Collectors will be all over it though.

    The finest is one of the 7 Convertibles. They all have been found. One was found in a junk yard just 45 mins from me.

    I remember looking at/test driving one of these in great shape for $2,700, private party, in North San Diego back in the late ’70’s. I wouldn’t go over $2,300, so I didn’t buy it. (Hey, it was an automatic.) At that point, it was just a Firebird with stripes. Wasn’t particularly fast, either, as I recall. One of many I regret.

    I would rather have one of the 7 convertibles. They all have been found.

    Also we had a 69 TA sitting in a yard here all through the 80’s. He would not sell but traded later for an old VW Rabbit.

    I wish this vehicle was on Bring A Trailer instead of Mecum. Mecum used to be a highlight of the mid-winter blahs in the north east, but with all the commercials and the fake rah-rah crap, Mecum is almost unwatchable now. On BaT, this car would have pages and pages of notes from p[people who know what is going on, it would be informative and fun. And no commercials.

    Totally agree with your assessment of the venues. Mecum has become a faint shadow of its former self…not very enjoyable to watch. Everything is about the money and very little about the vehicles, like one of the Saturday/Sunday morning shows (Two Guys Garage, Truck U, etc.), which are just one long infomercial…Mecum’s become an infomercial…I used to wait eagerly for the first day, through to the end of the last day. Now, I don’t care like that, and I, for one, abstain from purchasing anything that interrupts my enjoyment of the show…Oh, and btw, Motortrend can stop with the damned chyrons of ads running every other minute. It seems no matter how big of a TV you have, they’re Hell-bent on filling every pixel with an ad…STOP IT…

    In high school a friend with a firebird 6 cyl always wanted to race me with my Mustang 6 cyl. I knew better
    Nice article

    Back in about 1973 all the local gear heads use to hang out at the gas station in town, we were standing there when a guy pulls in with a 69 Trans Am and rolls down the window and said, hey anybody interested in my car for $900 the car was smoking blue (oil) smoke out the exhaust like a forest fire. Needless to say everybody turned him down. Who knew ?….. But on a bright note I left shortly and got into my 68 400 Firebird which I still have today and will own it 50 years this May.

    Beautiful car and great article. All ’69 Trans Ams are very rare and special, the RAIV’s are just that much more! By the way, there were 8 convertibles made, and the one with the Parchment interior is my favorite. Ken P – Midwest Firebirds.

    Not far from me is a 1968 RA II convertible with a 4 speed. Anybody have an idea how many might have been produced? They built a total of 110 RA II Firebirds that year, but never could find out how many convertibles were included.
    Any first generation RA Firebird is indeed a rare and desirable ‘bird. It will be interesting to see what this Trans Am goes for.

    If I’m not mistaken Greg, it’s 12 convertibles. I’d love to buy it if you can put me in touch – would pay a fee too. My email is my user name at hotmail.

    The original owner just finished a complete restoration. Once I found out how much his daughter likes the car, I gave up asking. We’ll just probably have to just keep dreaming about this one. A one owner gem that will likely remain in the family for quite awhile.

    12 – I was thinking about half that. Only have seen one other RA II, although it was a GTO hardtop a co worker owned.

    This is my lottery dream car, I’ve always wanted a 69 Trans Am, especially back in the day when many of the local Pontiac “aficionados” would tell me that there was no such thing as a 69 Trans Am.

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